“Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.”
-Mark 6.45-52 / ESV
Today it is common to hear preachers promote obedience to Christ as a means to a better quality of life. Our best-selling Christian authors seem to have embraced our culture’s concepts of what is “best” or “good” and then figured out how Christ’s principles will get us whatever “that” is. But in this story, it’s obedience to Christ that lands his most faithful followers in harm’s way.
A few thoughts…
– “he made his disciples” is awfully bossy, no? Jesus has this habit of telling people what to do (as opposed to asking nicely).
– “go before him to the other side” seems like he was perfectly fine leaving those guys to their own devices, so maybe those times when I feel alone, it shouldn’t upset me as being unnatural or punitive.
– “he saw” is amazingly comforting! He was not with them. He was doing his own thing all by himself. But he saw! I may be on my own, but I’m not.
– “he meant to pass by them” is the most outrageous line in the story! He sees the struggle. He supernaturally shows up. He has every intention of not helping them, but the next phrase – bizarre as it may seem – might give a clue as to why…
– “they did not understand about the loaves” is a “left field” comment if I ever heard one, but there must be a connection. Earlier in this chapter, the disciples were facing another herculean challenge: feeding 5,000 men with five loaves of bread. Was that task any more feasible than walking on water? What should they have learned from the loaves? It would seem to me that Christ shows them that a temporal liability (five loaves) is nothing more than a Kingdom resource! If they had taken that perspective with them onto the boat, maybe they wouldn’t have confused Christ with a ghost, but sought to step out on those Kingdom resources also known as “legs.”
Hardship and struggle serve many purposes in the hands of the Savior, the least of which is not that they’re opportunities for us to reflect Kingdom perspectives. Let’s not repeat the failure of the disciples as we get tossed about by some of these storms that are so prevalent in so many of our lives. Jesus makes all the difference!